Gender Differences in Coping With Depression This Emotional Life on PBS

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Depression

		

Who experiences depression?

Compared to men, women are twice as likely to experience depression.

In the United States, more than six million men each year experience depression. But men may show it differently than women. In addition, clinical depression strikes about two million American teens a year, and, like adults, twice as many teen girls as boys experience depression.

Women & depression

Women: twice the frequency

Compared to men, women are twice as likely to experience depression. Depression usually first occurs in women between the ages of 20 and 40, but depression can strike at any age.

Besides the other factors that may lead to depression, a woman’s hormones may play a role. Researchers have been examining if and how hormones affect women’s brain chemistry at certain points in life, including puberty, the time near menstruation, just before and after the birth of a child, and the onset of menopause.

Women and men tend to express depression a bit differently, too. Compared to men with depression, women with depression more often experience guilt, anxiety, increased appetite, an increased need for sleep, weight gain, or an eating disorder.

Men & depression

Real men experience depression, too

In the United States, more than six million men each year experience depression. But men may show it differently than women. Instead of feeling worthless, sad, and excessively guilty, many men instead may become fatigued, show irritability, or lose interest in hobbies or work, or they may experience sleep disturbances.

Some men turn to alcohol or drugs. Substance abuse can hide symptoms of depression, making it harder to see and treat. Other compulsive behaviors can show up. For instance, instead of losing interest in work, a man may throw himself into his job. By becoming a workaholic, he can hide depression from both himself and his loved ones. Other men become reckless and take excessive risks with their life or their health.

Teen depression

Teens also experience major depression

Clinical depression strikes about two million American teens a year. Like adults, twice as many teen girls as boys experience depression. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death in teens after accidents and homicide. Since most teens who commit suicide are depressed, many teen suicides can be prevented with treatment.

Research suggests that hormonal changes during puberty may contribute to the spike in depression among teenage girls. For example, Caitlin was in high school when she developed major depression. Like many who develop major depression, Caitlin experienced low energy, poor concentration, and decreased interest in activities that used to make her happy.

Other symptoms of teen depression include:

  • Significant changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Frequent complaints of physical aches and pains (headaches, stomachaches)
  • Feeling empty, hopeless
  • Frequent crying
  • Increased hostility or anger
  • Sensitivity to rejection or failure that is extreme
  • Notable decrease in communication with others, withdrawal from peers

Researchers have found that adolescents who experience major depression tend to be more prone to developing depression in adulthood.

One or two symptoms of depression do not mean a teenager is depressed. But if a family member or friend suspects a teenager is showing signs of depression, it is important to contact a doctor, mental health provider, or community clinic for assessment.

Find Help

Locate mental health and well-being support organizations in your area.